Capitals' Ethan Bear enters the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program

Washington Capitals goaltender Charlie Lindgren (79) covers up the puck as Winnipeg Jets' Nino Niederreiter (62) and Capitals' Ethan Bear (25) look for the rebound during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monday, March 11, 2024. (Fred Greenslade/The Canadian Press via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington Capitals defenseman Ethan Bear has entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.

Bear will be away from the team indefinitely while he receives care. The league and union, which jointly run the program, made the announcement Wednesday.

He is fifth player this season announced to be in the program after Columbus’ Patrik Laine, Colorado’s Samuel Girard and Valeri Nichushkin and former teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals put Kuznetsov on waivers after he was cleared to practice, sent him to the minors and then traded him to Carolina.

Bear, 26, has played 24 games since signing a two-year contract with Washington in December. He has been a healthy scratch for the past seven, as the team has won five of those to move into playoff position.

The Capitals recalled defenseman Vincent Iorio as well as winger Matthew Phillips after the news about Bear broke, and with three games left on Tom Wilson's suspension. They visit the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.